It baffles me that something as wonderful as a scone can often be so awful.
The scones I grew up with (my mother’s) were like rich biscuits: a little fluffy, a little crumbly, with a sweet butter flavor. They might have some currants or a bit of zest, but the main attraction was always the scone itself, plus whatever fabulous jam you smeared on top. They also weren’t too big, so you could have the pleasure of going back for seconds or thirds, perhaps trying a different jam on each one.
Commercial scones, on the other hand, always seem to be huge, floury and dry. Not to mention full of chunks of things: citron, cranberries, nuts – all distractions, in my opinion. This sort of scone gets you to drink a lot more coffee than you normally would, just to wash all that dry plaster out of your mouth. I can never eat more than a bite or two.
They need to be made at home, and eaten fresh. That’s all there is to it.
Despite my fondness for them, I make scones so rarely at home that I never remember what recipe to use for them. Sometimes I just make a regular buttermilk biscuit and add extra butter, sometimes I use the Joy of Cooking recipe. This time I chose to put my trust in Dorie Greenspan, whose wonderful baking book finally made its way onto my shelves. She has a way with the basics.
Made with heavy cream, these scones are not light, but they are so feathery-crisp that you’ll think they are. I added a bit of orange zest to brighten them, and to go with the rhubarb jam we bought at Franprix in Paris. Nothing could be better.
Cream Scones with Orange Zest
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 5 Tbsp butter
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- microplaned zest from about half an orange
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then cut the butter into them and work it in with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it’s like irregular gravel.
Beat the cream and egg together in another bowl, then pour them into the dry ingredients and carefully fold them together until barely combined. Turn out onto the counter and knead gently just a few times until you have a coherent dough.
Pat into a round at least an inch thick, cut into eight wedges, arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat, and tuck into the oven.
Bake twenty minutes or until golden brown. Attempt to let them cool before eating. Split, butter, and top with rhubarb jam, or marmalade, or honey.